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Avebury (āˈbərē), village, Wiltshire, S central England. The village, with a medieval church and Elizabethan manor house, lies within Avebury Circle, a Neolithic circular group of upright stones that is older and larger than Stonehenge but not so well preserved. The village and the circle have belonged to the nation since 1943 and are administered by the National Trust. To the south of Avebury is the similarly ancient Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric artificial mound in Europe, 130 ft (39.6 m) high and covering more than 5 acres (2 hectares) at its base.
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Rivalling Stonehenge as one of the most archeologically interesing megalithic sites in England, Avebury may have similarly served as a tool for tracking the motion of stars and planets.Getty Images.

Avebury (England)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Avebury, one of England’s most spectacular megalithic sites, has been inhabited for more than four millennia, its oldest part dating to approximately 2600 BCE. It is also one of the largest of such sites, being some 2,500 feet in diameter.

Avebury centers on two stone circles, both around 340 feet in diameter. At one time in the center of the southernmost circle rested a single stone surrounded by a rectangle of smaller stones. There was a cove of unknown purpose in the center of the northern circle. Surrounding the two inner circles is a large circular embankment, immediately inside of which was a ditch. On the inner edge of the ditch was a circle of some 100 stones, some of which remain in place. The site was constructed in stages, from the center outward. Among the later additions was a double line of stones (referred to as West Kennet Avenue) that led from Avebury to another site about a mile to the south. Avebury is older than Stonehenge, and most of its stones show little sign of having been reshaped before being put in place.

Given technology at the time, the construction of Avebury took many years and consumed a considerable percentage of the local inhabitants’ resources above what was required simply to survive. The inner circles had 46 stones between them, some rising as much as 20 feet in the air and weighing upwards of 40 tons.

Over the centuries of the Common Era, the site fell into disuse, especially with the spread of Christianity. Beginning in the fourteenth century, records indicate efforts to remove the stones and use the land within the embankment for farming. The large stones were pulled down and used for houses and other structures. Study of the site began in the early eighteenth century by Dr. William Stukeley, who made the first detailed measurements along with a set of drawings. Unfortunately, Stukeley was not in the position to prevent further destruction of the site.

Since World War II, both amateur and professional study of Avebury, now a protected archeological site, has flourished. Some have picked up Stukeley’s observation that the wider ground plan of Avebury represented a serpent passing through a circle (an alchemical symbol). A number of researchers integrated the data on Avebury into the growing acknowledgment that many of the megalithic sites were involved with the observation of the heavens by the ancient residents of England, and that the stone alignments marked cyclical movements of the sun and moon and possibly other planetary bodies. Alexander Thom’s measurements indicate a sophisticated knowledge of the moon’s movements. These observations, of course, suggest that lunar activity played an important role in ancient British religion. Modern considerations also place emphasis on other nearby sites representative of the megalithic culture, such as Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill, and the Sanctuary.

While much of the work on Avebury follows normal scientific methodology, a variety of more speculative methodologies have been used to overcome limits to understanding Avebury and other megalithic sites. Some have attempted to tease information from ancient folklore and popular legends, while a few used various psychic arts from clairvoyance to dowsing. One popular theory ties Avebury into a system of ley lines, a system of straight lines crisscrossing England and believed to connect various sacred sites. Conclusions drawn from these studies rest upon the evaluation of the methodology and the presence of independent verification. Such speculation has additional significance, however, as it attempts to tie the religion of ancient Britons into modern Pagan and alternative metaphysical religions. While many tourists visit Avebury out of historical interest, many Pagans and New Agers see their visit as a spiritual/religious experience.

Avebury is located in Wiltshire, some ninety miles west of London. Today, a village is located inside the embankment, and a modern road transverses the circle, entering and exiting through the breaks in the embankment. It has become one of England’s top tourist stops.


Brown, Peter Lancaster. Megaliths and Masterminds. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979.
Burl, Aubrey. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976.
Miller, Hamish, and Paul Broadhurst. The Sun and the Serpent. Hayle, Cornwall, UK: Pendragon Press, 1990.
Thom, Alexander. Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.

The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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Avebury, Wiltshire. Courtesy Janet and Colin Bord/Fortean Picture Library


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Possibly built by the Bronze Age "beaker people," Avebury, in Wiltshire, is the oldest of the megalithic henges in Britain. It stands at one end of a shallow valley, close to the river Kennet and not far from Silbury Hill, the largest manmade mound in Europe. Avebury covers an area of twenty-eight acres, including the village, and is circular in form and bounded by a deep ditch. The largest of the stones remaining standing in the outer circle is twenty-five feet tall and weighs over sixty tons. An avenue of standing stones extends for one and a half miles between Avebury and a smaller circle of stones known as the Sanctuary. Within the main, large circle are two smaller, equal-sized circles of nearly sixty huge, sandstone rocks known as sarsen stone. The Avebury site is comparable to the better-known Stonehenge, twenty miles away, which also uses sarsen stone.

Archeologists have estimated that this sacred, religious site was in use for at least a thousand years, from the Neolithic Age into the Bronze Age. It is said to be haunted, with figures, lights and music having been seen on various occasions. British Witches consider this a psychic center and believe it to have been used for Goddess worship.

B A B A YAG A s e e W I T C H C R A F T I N M Y T H, L E G E N D A N D FA I RY TA L E S

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a complex of megalithic sanctuaries and tombs dating from the Neolithic period and early Bronze Age (2100–1650 B.C.), near the village of the same name in Wiltshire, Great Britain. It includes a large cromlech about 350 m in diameter, consisting of about 100 stone pillars weighing up to 50 tons each and surrounded by an earthen bank and ditch. Within this cromlech are two smaller ones, each about 108 m in diameter. An avenue of mehhirs, 2.3 km long, leads from the south of this complex to the cromlech of Overton Hill, which consists of two concentric circles. A number of long barrows and megalithic tombs are located near Avebury.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a village in Wiltshire, site of an extensive Neolithic stone circle
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005